A trio of lazy lions decided that they didn’t need to do the hard work in order to enjoy a nice evening meal after stealing food from a leopard.
The leopard, who had been stalking his prey for the past 45 minutes, had successfully killed the impala and decided to hoist his meal onto a branch of a tree in South Africa.
Unfortunately for the leopard, a pack of lions were also close by, watching and waiting for the precise moment to strike.
Hunt: A leopard is successful in collecting its evening meal after stalking an impala in the Sabi sand game reserve in South Africa
Climb: After gathering its kill, the leopard impressively hoists the impala into a tree
Supper: The leopard now has his evening meal in place, however, he is not the only one around
Wildlife photographer Andrew Schoeman said: ‘Seeing the leopard stalk, chase and catch an impala is special, it is an exhilarating feeling.’
‘We waited for about 45 minutes while the leopard stalked and eventually caught the impala, the Leopard then hoisted the kill and about five minutes later the Lions appeared on the scene.’
The 41-year-old South African captured this encounter at night, while leading a wildlife photographic safari through the Sabi Sand game reserve in South Africa.
However, even with 14 years of experience photographing wildlife, Mr Schoeman was stunned by the lions’ next move.
The lions bounded for the tree and began fighting over the impala while trying to keep their balance on the branches, allowing for the leopard to escape unharmed.
Safe spot: The leopard hides his catch in a tree but he has now become aware that he has company in the form of three lions
Free food: The lions come bounding towards the tree and frantically start to climb
Fight: Once the lions climb the tree, their attention turns to fighting each other for the impala
Mr Schoeman, who lives in Nelspruit, South Africa, said: ‘I have never seen lions climb trees like this but I know they can do it, so I was not surprised by the behaviour but it was great to see in real life.
‘To watch the lions approach was very tense. We didn’t want any harm to come to the leopard and we were relieved when the leopard managed to get away unharmed.
‘It actually became quite comical and funny to watch the lions climb the tree, with their big bodies trying to balance in the branches while also trying to eat and compete with each other for the food.’
Mr Schoeman has documented both lions and leopards for several years, learning the process of how they both hunt their prey.
He added: ‘I have watched both leopards and lions hunting before and I know it can be a long slow process but also exciting.
‘Often the hunts are unsuccessful so when the leopard made the kill it was extra exciting and special to then watch the leopard hoist the kill into the tree. These animals can lift a heavy carcass almost effortlessly.’
Wildlife: The photographs were taken by wildlife photographer Andrew Schoeman, who described the lions as comical as they struggled to balance as they attempted to take the impala for themselves